GAO: ObamaCare subsidies crucial for expanding coverage

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The government's watchdog agency on Monday underscored the role of ObamaCare tax credits at a time when the Supreme Court could make them illegal in a majority of states. 

The availability of ObamaCare subsidies helped drive the massive increase in healthcare coverage, the Government Accountability Office wrote in a 63-page report.

The tax credits reduced healthcare costs for millions of people, which “likely contributed to an expansion of health insurance coverage” in 2014, according to the nonpartisan study.

The new research bolsters support for the Obama administration’s long-time assertion that tax credits are a central part of the healthcare law's success.

The administration has redoubled its attention on ObamaCare’s subsidies in the wake of King v. Burwell, a Supreme Court case challenging subsidies in 34 states. If the court rules against the Obama administration, about 7.5 million people in those states could lose their subsidies – which federal officials have warned would lead to a “death spiral” in the insurance market.

Nearly 90 percent of people who signed up for ObamaCare qualify for tax credits. With the help of tax credits, the average monthly premium is reduced to $264 a month, down from $346 a month.

While about 8 million people signed up for ObamaCare in its first year, the report calls attention to the remaining uninsured.

About 16 percent of nonelderly adults are still without healthcare, the majority of whom will not face penalties under ObamaCare because their incomes fall below the threshold or because they are undocumented.

And even for those who already obtained coverage under ObamaCare, the report warns that many people are still having trouble affording the out-of-pocket costs.

“All exchange enrollees are vulnerable to high out-of-pocket costs,” according to the report, which also said that “some insurers have limited the networks of providers covered by the plans offered on the exchanges.”